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Weight Loss & Diet

30-Minute Weeknight Dinners for Health and Weight Loss

Chicken Broccoli Casserole
Author
Natalie Stein

Exercise, Fitness & Nutrition Expert | Lark Health

Preparing meals at home can be healthier and better for weight loss than going out to eat, getting takeout, or ordering in. But who has time or energy to cook on a busy weeknight? You might! We designed these five easy recipes for you! They:

  • Are easy to make. 
  • Use simple, common ingredients.
  • Are versatile so you can use what you have on hand.
  • Taste great and are family-friendly.
  • Are calorie-controlled and full of nutrients including fiber and protein.
  • Can be modified for special diets like vegan or gluten-free.

Do you eat low-carb? Are you gluten-free? Do you choose plant-based foods? We have suggestions for modifying the recipes for your own needs!

These are the five weeknight dinners below.

These meals have about 400 to 500 calories each. And they can help you get more green badges in Lark when you keep your other meals nutritious, balanced, and calorie-controlled, too! Remember to log your meals to get feedback and to get more green badges! And be sure to check with your doctor before trying any new meal plan or diet!

Salmon Stir Fry


Salmon Stir Fry

This recipe works with any fresh fish, shellfish, or other protein that you may have purchased on the weekend. And you can use any vegetables you like. Serve the salmon and vegetables over ⅓ cup of cooked brown rice, brown rice noodles, or whole-wheat spaghetti. 

Recipe serves 4

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons of sliced green onion
  • 1 packet of low-calorie sweetener, such as stevia or monk fruit
  • ¼ teaspoon of ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon of red pepper flakes, optional
  • 1 tablespoon of sesame oil, plus another tablespoon
  • 1 tablespoon of sesame seeds
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
  • 12 ounces of salmon fillet, cut in pieces
  • ½ cup of chopped onion
  • 3 cups of vegetables, such as broccoli florets, snap or snow peas, red pepper, carrot, celery, bok choy, or mushrooms, sliced or cut into bite-sized pieces

Directions

  1. Mix the sweetener, ginger, red pepper flakes, 1 tablespoon of sesame oil, sesame seeds, minced garlic, and green onion in a small bowl and set aside.
  2. Heat the sesame oil in a skillet. Add the salmon and cook for 2-3 minutes on each side, or until it flakes. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  3. Add the onion and other vegetables. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the contents of the bowl and mix.
  4. Plate the pasta or brown rice. Top with vegetables and salmon.

Gluten-Free: choose brown rice or brown rice pasta instead of whole-wheat pasta.

Low-Carb: serve the salmon and vegetables with a few slices of avocado instead of rice or pasta.

Vegan (plant-based): Use pressed, extra firm tofu or prepared seitan instead of salmon.

Short-Cuts: Use a bag of pre-cut stir fry vegetables or broccoli and cauliflower florets. Low-sodium store-bought teriyaki sauce or stir fry sauce saves you from making the sauce. And it is okay to use leftover pasta or rice from the day before.

Turkey Taco Bowls


Turkey Taco Bowls

A taco salad, burrito, or burrito bowl can easily have over 1,000 calories and be laden with fat and starch. On the other hand, this Turkey Taco Bowl is packed with protein and fiber. It can be a satisfying and healthy meal for under 500 calories. And it is super easy to make! 

Recipe serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • ½ cup of diced onion
  • 6 ounces of lean ground turkey, or 1 cup of texture vegetable or soy protein (TVP or TSP) hydrated in low-sodium broth
  • ⅓ package of taco or fajita seasoning mix, or mixture of cumin, paprika, chili powder, salt, and oregano
  • 1 cup of frozen corn, thawed
  • 1 15-ounce can of fire-roasted tomatoes or tomatoes with chiles
  • 1 15-ounce can of low-sodium black beans or 2 cups of cooked black beans
  • 1 ½ cups of cooked brown rice
  • 1 ½ cups of chopped tomato
  • Optional toppings: fat-free yogurt, low-fat cheese, chopped cilantro, lime wedges

Directions

  1. Heat the oil and add the onion. Cook for 3 minutes, then add the turkey or TSP and stir in the seasoning mix or spices. Cook the turkey for 5 minutes or until brown.
  2. Stir in the tomatoes and corn and remove from heat.
  3. Serve the turkey with the black beans, tomato, and brown rice. Add toppings as desired.

Gluten-Free: use spices instead of a seasoning packet, which may have gluten.

Low-Carb: top your bowl with 1 ounce of cheese or 2 slices of avocado instead of using brown rice.

Vegan (plant-based: Use textured vegetable protein or textured soy protein (TVP or TSP) instead of ground turkey.

Short-Cuts: You can save time by using leftover cooked brown rice from the previous day. 

Fun Swaps: Instead of brown rice, it is okay to use another whole grain, such as quinoa, or to try cooked sweet potato or acorn squash. Shrimp and tilapia are great swaps to try instead of turkey.

Spaghetti with Tomatoes and Feta Cheese


Spaghetti with Tomatoes and Feta Cheese

This is a twist on classic spaghetti. It is a great mid-week recipe because it is fast and does not depend on last-minute purchase of fresh meat or fish. You can add any vegetables you like, such as sliced mushrooms or chopped spinach leaves, to the sauce after heating the oil in a skillet. You can eat the leftovers for the next night’s dinner, or take them for lunch and have the pasta warm or cold. You can serve this with berries or cut fruit for dessert.

Recipe serves 4

Ingredients

  • 6 ounces of dry whole-grain spaghetti
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced (or ½ teaspoon of garlic powder)
  • ½ onion, chopped
  • 2 cups of chopped tomatoes
  • 2 red peppers, chopped
  • ½ cup of fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
  • ½ teaspoon of thyme
  • 6 ounces of low-fat feta cheese, divided

Directions

  1. Cook the spaghetti. Drain it, saving 1 cup of water from cooking, and set it aside.
  2. Add the oil to a skillet. Add the onion and garlic and cook for 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes, and bell pepper and cook for another 8 minutes or until the vegetables are soft.
  3. Stir in the basil and thyme and add salt to taste.
  4. Stir in 4 ounces of feta cheese.
  5. Remove from heat. Add the spaghetti and stir. Add a bit of water from the pasta if needed.
  6. Plate and top with the remaining feta cheese.

Rotisserie Chicken with Salad


Rotisserie Chicken with Salad

Tonight, why not let the supermarket do the work for you? It is healthier and less expensive than going to a restaurant. And it gives you a break in the kitchen when you are tired or not inspired to cook.

Just serve:

  • Rotisserie chicken (throw away the skin)
  • Bagged salad mix with lettuce, spinach, spring greens, or arugula. Toss in any add-ins you like, such as grape tomatoes, sliced mushrooms, or sliced cucumber.
  • Low-calorie salad dressing or olive oil and vinegar
  • ½ cup of baked sweet potato, ½ of a large ear of corn on the cob, or 1 whole-grain dinner roll
  • Fresh berries, a small apple or pear, or cut fruit

Gluten-Free: Choose a starchy vegetable or brown rice instead of a dinner roll.

Low-Carb: Skip the diner roll or other starch, and add ½ ounce of nuts to your side salad.

Vegan (Plant-based): Instead of chicken, a bean burger or some seitan-based chicken substitute can be ready in minutes just by heating them. 

Fun Swaps: instead of a green salad, you can serve coleslaw mix (shredded cabbage) marinated with a light salad dressing instead of a mayo-based dressing. And if rotisserie chicken isn’t your thing, many supermarkets sell pre-seasoned or marinated chicken or fish that you can cook at home.

Chicken Broccoli Casserole


Chicken Broccoli Casserole

This is a great one-dish meal that can use leftover rotisserie or other cooked chicken. You can add pretty much any vegetables that you like. To make it faster, you can use bagged, pre-cut vegetables, such as broccoli florets. Just cook harder vegetables in a pan for a bit before adding them to the casserole. Adding a strong cheese gives it more flavor, but you do not need to add it if you prefer not to. And you can choose whether to use pasta, brown rice, or another grain such as quinoa.

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • ½ cup of diced onion
  • 3 cups of chopped broccoli florets
  • 2 cups of shredded cooked chicken
  • 1 teaspoon of onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon of garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon of paprika
  • 2 cups of cooked whole-grain pasta, brown rice, or quinoa
  • 3 cups of fresh spinach leaves
  • 2 ounces of crumbled blue cheese
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • ¼ cup of milk or almond milk

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9 x 13 baking dish.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a skillet. Add the onion and cook for 3 minutes. 
  3. Add the broccoli and cook for another 5 minutes.
  4. Mix the broccoli, chicken, spices, pasta or grain, spinach, and blue cheese in a bowl. Pour it into the greased pan.
  5. Beat the eggs with the milk. Pour evenly over the contents of the pan.
  6. Bake for 15 minutes or until the eggs are set.

Low-Carb: Cut the pasta, brown rice, or quinoa to 1 cup, and add ¼ cup of chopped cashews.

Vegan (plant-based): Omit the chicken, eggs, and blue cheese. Add ½ cup of drained firm tofu pureed with ½ cup of garbanzo beans, plus 1 cup of garbanzo beans when you mix together the broccoli and grain. Add ½ cup of vegan cheese instead of blue cheese. 

Short Cuts: The more leftovers you use, the faster this recipe will be to assemble. You can make the pasta, brown rice, or quinoa the night before and use leftover rotisserie or other chicken. Using bagged fresh spinach and pre-cut broccoli florets can also save time.